Chasing Your Dreams (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson)

battersonNot all great preachers are great writers. Mark Batterson is one of the few who are. Like my favorites, Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll, Batterson has the cadence of a poet and the wisdom of a pastor.

This book includes profound thoughts that are beautifully crafted. Here are a few:

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ.

We’re inspired by people who face their fears and chase their dreams. What we fail to realize is that they are no different from us.

In the beginning, the Sprit of God was hovering over the chaos. And nothing has changed. God is still hovering over chaos.

Your ability to help others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded

The premise of this book is that you can experience success and blessings when you boldly chase after dreams that come from God—be it those revealed in the faintest of whispers in your subconscious or those packaged in calls heard loud and clear. The book then goes on to prove this premise by shuffling examples and practical lessons, beginning with Benaiah.

And because I’m a sucker for nobodies who surface as heroes, I love that Benaiah and his lion-chasing bravado on a snowy day is the foundation of this book (despite reviews—like this one—that question the heroic details of the story). For me a story doesn’t  have to be accurate in order to inspire and motivate me. The storyteller and preacher in Batterson were successful in making me assess missed opportunities, while recalibrating my life lenses with a vow to make the rest of my life on earth more accountable to my Creator God.

In spite of the much needed motivation I received from this book, I did find that everything from the illustration of Benaiah to the contemporary examples to the practical tips could have been sandwiched into a much shorter book. The repetition of some content and fillers had me speed reading through much of the book. Other than this shortcoming, I really like this book and have passed it on for someone else to benefit from its encouragement.

For more information about the book from Waterbrook Multnomah, go here. To learn more about Mark Batterson and his ministry, go here.

And for the record, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, by Randy Singer (Tyndale)

deadSome books take a good 20 pages to set the stage before actually telling the story. That’s not Singer. With him there’s no dillydallying; he pulls you right into the story in the very first page. I like that.

By the same logic, I would have liked to seen the lawyers die a bit sooner. Instead it happens much later, about half way through the book. The title told me they were going to die, so I wanted that pivotal point to show up earlier :)

The story itself is well woven and well told—simple and void of overreaching prose. The storyline holds the reader captive and the ending is well worth the wait. Some may find the sub plots somewhat far-fetched and distracting, but I didn’t. I felt they added to the development of the characters.

Although a pastor, Singer does not unnecessarily pepper his story with random Bible verses or biblical principles. Instead the characters tastefully reflect Singer’s pastoral persona: there are steps taken in faith, grace expressed in second chances, and contentment in living every day—no matter that might look like.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

 

 

Humble Orthodoxy, by Joshua Harris (Multnomah)

humbleNo matter how good a book is, first impressions do matter. In this respect, the book fails: Humble Orthodoxy is the size of my hand and the thickness of my phone, retailing at  $9.99—that’s 16 cents per tiny page of the 61-paged primary section of the book.

On the other hand, the premise of the book is totally worth the price. On the cover, the subtitle of the book is “holding the truth without putting people down.” in the first few pages is this: “We need to be courageous in our stand for biblical truth. But we also need to be gracious in our words and interaction with other people.”

This is probably the shortest book I’ve ever read on the need for authentic Christianity, yet between every few lines is a home run. This little book is the slap of rude awakening many of us Christians need right now. Here are a few of these zingers, each of them worthy of the hashtags #humbleorthodoxy and #livelikeChrist.

  • “Truth matters . . . but so does out attitude.”
  • “One of the mistakes Christians often make is that we learn to rebuke like Jesus but not love like Jesus.”
  • “All of us should be less concerned with whether others are being faithful to God’s truth than with whether we are being faithful to God.”
  • “The truth is not our truth; it comes from God. And the ability to uphold it with loving humility comes from him too.”
  • “Orthodoxy shouldn’t be a club to attack someone else. It should be a double-edged sword that starts by piercing our hearts, laying them bare before God so that we say, ‘Forgive us, Lord!’”
  • “Are we giving as much energy to obeying and being reformed by God’s Word personally we are to criticizing its detractors?”

True to its premise, the book includes excellent study guides with applicative exercises.

All in all, this is a small yet powerful book that’s relevant to Christian living.

(I received this book free from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

lead for god’s sake by todd gongwer (tyndale)

ImageIt took me forever to get through this book.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book on the principles of servant leadership. It’s got strong practical, applicative points to make. It’s got a decent story line. It just wasn’t my style; that’s all.

Gongwer, weaves in leadership attributes and lessons through a story–a parable, to be accurate. A story, that is stretched through the hundreds of pages from start to finish. That may work for most, but not for me.

If I want a parable, I go to the gospels, to Jesus. Or maybe to Swindoll’s Tardy Oxcart. For me a parable is short and pithy–something memorable, something that makes its point with subtlety yet without belaboring me with details.

So, while the book gets an “A” from me for content, it scores far less for its delivery.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

the witness by dee henderson (tyndale)

For me, the book was just meh. Plot line was rather formulaic and predictable. And there was very little character development. I loved the author’s use of descriptive language, though.It kept me engaged despite the stuff I didn’t care for.

Maybe I’m biased because I have an aversion to books labeled as religious fiction simply because of a sprinkling of prayers or random, awkwardly placed meet-Jesus conversations. I want to meet a character who squeezes my heart with a yearning to know Jesus even more. I want a story that assures me that all is good when God’s in control–even when all doesn’t seem all that good.

Maybe I’m biased because I rarely read religious fiction. (I’m also too cheap to pass up a free book.) To me a true story of someone’s walk with Christ echoes hope and strengthens my faith in providential possibilities more than any piece of fiction could ever do.

So, considering I’m just one person, one review, and Henderson has several bestsellers while I have none, she must be doing something right :)

tj and the time stumblers by bill myers (tyndale)

Writing fiction for kids cannot be easy. Interests, expressions, language, technology and everything else about each age group changes quicker than one can write a book. With that recognition, I don’t mean to be overly critical of this book.

First, all the stuff about it that I think kids would like:

  • The plot is centered around time travel–Now what chid–or adult–doesn’t like time travel, right? Myers is very visual in his narrative and truly transports the reader on a journey.
  • The style of writing could be very appealing to young readers. It is a mixture of prose and comic book dialog without the pictures. But that’s the beauty of Myers’ style–His words have the ability of conjuring up the needed pictures and motions in the reader’s mind.
  • The character are well developed.
  • The story is about good living without breathing down Christian morality or guilt trips.

Now, for the other stuff–All the points mentioned above are in reference to a much younger reader than the reader Tyndale or Myers had in mind. This book is being marketed as juvenile fiction for adolescent readers. I can’t imagine what made them think this would appeal to that group of readers!

The characters are in junior high–seventh and eight graders. But I don’t see the language or the story appealing to this group of readers. Having worked with children and curriculum, Kindergarten through high school, I just don’t think a seventh-grader would identify himself with the character or have an interest reading the book.

I think the book would appeal more to a 3rd or 4th grader.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

trusting god for everything: psalm 23 by jan johnson (NavPress)

In the early pages of this book, Johnson differentiates the 23rd Psalm from the other psalms by calling it a “confidence” psalm—-While most psalms are prayers born out of despair or praise, this psalm looks at life from an objective distance. From this vantage point, the psalmist verbalizes the how and why behind the success of his life. The psalm is an acknowledgement of the psalmist’s confidence in the Power that fuels his life.

Based on this foundation of helpless man’s confidence in All Powerful God, the book is divided into seven sections called meditations rather than chapters. The meditation encourage the reader take some deliberate time out to plant oneself firmly in the protective, loving presence of God—-a presence that has all things in control, a presence that brings the reader confidence to face life and all its challenges.

What I especially liked about the book is Johnson’s use of various Bible versions to emphasize elements and subtle meanings evident in the psalm.

(I received this book free from NavPress. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)